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The Man Who Knew Too Much

Does not hold up so well over time
On my third time seeing it, I have to say this one is a couple steps below the better Hitchcock films. First, the original is better. Nothing much wrong with the acting. Hitchcock uses a lot of his favorite and familiar old suspense tricks here and many are effective but the execution of the plot and the screenplay are mostly second-rate. The script has a million holes in it, many parts are just not believable including the crucial scenes at the end. The ending is a letdown.

The Paleface

Second viewing as good or better than first
The truest test of a great movie is if it holds up over multiple viewings and this one passes the test.

I saw it about six or seven years ago and remembered being floored by the comedy writing and acting interplay between stars Bob Hope and Jane Russell.

Everything was as great as I imagined - a lot of credit has to go to the group of five writers credited with working on the screenplay and dialogue.

Bob Hope has some great moments here - several scenes are just laugh out loud cut-ups that if you don't appreciate, you just don't know good comedy.

Jane Russell is as sultry as ever and this is my favorite of hers - I think she is better in this and even more beautiful than her scenes in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Her outfits are lovely and the technicolor is simply amazing.

I would give this a 10 but there is some campy period comedy involved that you have to just laugh at.


Entertaining film but a letdown
Great concept by Howard Hughes to shoot footage of exotic Macao - great footage of the streets of Macao - brilliant.

Unfortunately, Hughes wasn't a screenwriter or a director - and that's where the problems are here.

Some great actors show up - and some beautiful shots of Gloria Grahame who looks stunning, Robert Mitchum and of course Jane Russell. William Bendix is playing his usual shady typecast role but the screenplay lets everybody down.

On top of the bad screenplay is the problems with the directing. Supposedly Mitchum and director Josef Von Sternberg couldn't get along, threatened to have each other thrown off the movie until Sternberg was replaced - it would be his second to last film. The replacements didn't seem to know much what they were doing between Nicholas Ray and Robert Stevenson and Mel Ferrer you can pretty much tell when they are involved because the film becomes standard studio fare.

Grahame is underutilized though it led her to better roles. Supposedly she was held back by Hughes from acting in Born Yesterday which might have changed her career - and instead put her in this.

Kind of a shame - they had a chance for something special here.

Polly of the Circus

Requires multiple viewings - outrageous racing and circus scenes
The first goldwyn picture pulls out all the stops - the racing scenes are as good as it gets - circus scenes brilliant - acting is great

The Red Shoes

Nearly a masterpiece
Visually this is a 10.

The story and screenplay fall just a tad short of making this a masterpiece.

Great cinematography and use of technicolor.

Great choreography and ballet scenes,

The acting of Moira Shearer,Anton Walbrook and Marius Goring is first rate.

Based on a Hans Christian Andersen story.

The Black Stallion

Mickey Rooney - they don't make them like that anymore
Not a great film but worth seeing for Mickey Rooney who earned an Oscar nomination for this - Rooney deserved so much more in his later career

Lost in America

A reminder to avoid casinos
Some very good sequences here - acting by Brooks and Haggerty is great - Brooks has some witty sequences - good job of writing and direction.

I think it falls short of greatness but I think its good nature lifts it. If this movie keeps u from going to vegas it was a success.

Repeat Performance

Dark, downbeat but Leslie is all consuming
Just 21 after she sued Warner Bros. for better roles, Leslie ended up in this dark post-war film noir. Far too dark and downbeat for a country who had just emerged victorious from WW2, it wasn't a success.

Watching this film today, it doesn't add up. Too much of the film is a stretch. I like the concept.

What makes the film is the enormous radiance of Joan Leslie. This is a tour de force from Leslie and she has all the qualities of a great star. If you are a fan of Joan Leslie or appreciate a good piece of 1940's glamorous acting from the Golden Age, this is for you.

The Verdict

Nearly great movie - Hitchcockian mystery but not as smooth
Like a great movie released the same year - The Big Sleep - this is a very confusing mystery movie like a Raymond Chandler novel or Hitchcock film - but the corners and edges are rougher and the script is not as smooth and clever. The dialogue also doesn't compare to that great film and frankly a number of the scenes just don't cut it.

The ending is a bit of a letdown to be straightforward.

The director Don Siegel is making one of his first films - before he would go on to things like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Babyface Nelson and of course Dirty Harry.

He looks to still be getting his bearings here and considering his lack of experience -does a very good job.

The adapted screenplay in in capable hands just falls short of greatness.

Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre are a great team - they make up for a lot of the film's shortcomings. There is a strong cast of British actors who also give the film some added weight. George Colouris is excellent - he was part of the Mercury Theatre group of Orson Welles. He played Walter Parks Thatcher in Citizen Kane.

The mystery of this film is really Joan Lorring - who is beyond excellent and on the screen for far too short of a time. She is mesmerizing every second she is on and it is a great wonder she did not turn into a major star as she was obviously meant to be. It doesn't make sense that Jack Warner, who produced this film, would have let her leave the studio to go on to a career in independent productions, Italian movies, and the New York theater when she could have been as big as Ava Garder or Audrey Hepburn.

Each Dawn I Die

Major letdown with Cagney and Raft but not their fault
Two of the greatest 1930s heavyweights show up here in James Cagney and George Raft but this is a major disappointment.

The subpar script is a moralizing tale which is actually about 30 years ahead of its time in 1939 telling stories about corrupt prison officials and brutal guards. 30 years before Attica.

But the story meanders into utter impossibility with a storyline which is impossible to believe and the direction falters. The dialogue is folksy for a 1939 prison tale.

Not a dame in sight for 35 minutes. Perhaps five minutes in the whole movie shows the one woman in the film.

Tough to take.

One of those scripts which tries to do too much - too ambitious - I'm sure when Cagney and Raft read the script they thought this would be a much better picture.

Not a lot of compelling reasons to watch aside from Cagney and Raft. Very good performances by both - one of the few times I can remember seeing Raft with his longish hair down and not all greased up or under a hat.

In This Our Life

Disaster - only for devotees of the actors
Complete failure.

One of the worst wastes of a cast you will find. Bette Davis reportedly hated this film and clashed with the direction and studio over the filming. Her husband was ill at the time and Jack Warner dragged her back to finish the movie.

Davis also had laringytis during the shooting and at points in the movie you can hear it as her voice breaks.

John Huston began the direction but was summoned to WW2 and Raul Walsh finished it. Walsh and Davis didn't see eye to eye.

Davis complained that screenplay was a poor adaption of the novel. The screenplay is like something out of a bad B movie.

What makes it all worse is Olivia de Havilland is great, as is George Brent, Charles Coburn and an underutilized Billie Burke. Dennis Morgan is a rather pathetic role.

The film is noteworthy historically for giving a lift to the representation of African Americans - which is partially a credit to Davis who selected the actor.

The Godfather: Part II

Great style but not as masterful as the original
As the years have gone by and AMC plays The Godfather on a constant loop, there has developed a sort of common wisdom that this film is as good or some even contend - better than the first.

This is simply not the case on either count.

There are come wonderful aspects to this film - namely the emergence of Robert De Niro, the 1910's New York City tenement scenes, the depictions of old rural Italy and some great acting from Al Pacino, John Cazale and Robert Duvall.

This film was automatically at a disadvantage from the first with no Marlon Brando, James Caan, Richard Conte and Sterling Hayden - four great actors, A fifth - Richard Castellano, is the greatest loss on the film because it is a self-inflicted wound due to a dispute over money and allegedly dialogue- so Clemenza is sloppily erased from the story with some confusing tale which we won't go into.

So this movie is at at a loss of five great actors to start with and picks up one monumental discovery in De Niro who on his own nearly makes this great to warch. The bad guy of the film - Italian actor Gastone Moschin essentially replaces the original bad guy Al Lettieri (who famously dies in the original) in a piece of good acting.

Hyman Roth, a Jewish mobster partly based around the story of Meyer Lansky (like most of the subjects in these movies these men are loose composites drawing from different characters). Roth is played by Lee Strasberg - a great acting teacher who developed the method style of acting deployed by Brando, Pacino and De Niro - but not the greatest actor.

Roth has some memorable lines and it is a good performance by Strasberg but the character is really nothing like Lansky's actual character and the film takes a lot of liberties with this storyline which is far from the truth and ends up really muddying the script in some nutty premise which is not believable. I won't give anything away, but Lansky never did half of the things that are suggested here. But his greatest line is about Moe Greene (loosely based as a composite of Bugsy Siegel).

Apparently, director Francis Ford Coppola wanted James Cagney to play Roth's part but perhaps Cagney didn't like what Coppola did with the character.

Fans of the show Sopranos may be interested to know that Roth's lieutenant Johnny Ola is played by Dominic Chianese who played Tony's uncle Junior.

The dialogue is not up to par with the first. Some of the scenes are more for show and effect and impression than substance.

There are a number of holes in the storyline which are not properly resolved.

There is a quick appearance by the late Danny Aiello.

Bruno Kirby makes a good impression in one of his earliest roles.

Michael Gazzo does an adequate job as essentially Clemenza/Richard Castellano's replacement but it always feels like he is a replacement player.

Pacino's new (and old) bodyguard seems completely out of place the entire time.

Diane Keaton and Talia Shire are good in returning roles. Keaton has a memorable showdown with Pacino.

All in all this is a great movie, and it is darker than the first - in some ways much darker. Most of its greatness lies in the back story that is told in the flashback scenes.

Peyton Place

Some good acting but story is dated
Some fine actors and actresses here: Lana Turner, Arthur Kennedy, Diane Varsi, Hope Lange, Russ Tamblyn, Terry Moore make it worth watching but there are too many cringy moments which are a product of its 1950's code times and an apparent nervousness in the director and scriptwriter to push the envelope of high school romance and how far they can take the subject which gets older with every scene they try it in. Eventually, the movie becomes unwatchable.

It's a shame because the film starts with a lot of promise in the way of Arthur Kennedy.

Our introduction to Diane Varsi is mesmerizing. You can't help but wonder why she didn't become a hugely successful starlet - unfortunately her story was a sad one in which Fox Pictures suspended her when she refused to do a movie after a nervous breakdown and it was all downhill from there. Varsi was nominated for an Oscar.

Amazingly, five of the actors were nominated for Oscars but nobody won. A movie with some promise and nice touches and nice performances which just fell flat. It probably seemed edgy at the time but comes across as too hopelessly pretentious now.

Straight Outta Compton

White Sox didn't change logos until 1991
First sign of trouble was Eazy E wearing a White Sox hat in the beginning when the group was forming in 1987.

Only problem with that is he didn't wear that hat until 1991, when the White Sox changed their logo.

Somebody looked at a photo of Eazy E and didn't take the time to figure out when the photo was taken and do their homework.

That is what this movie is in a nutshell. It's not based on historical accuracy and actual descriptions of what took place.

It is a big studio glamorization of a group which was never glamorized during their controversial tenure. Most of the dark areas of their lyrics and incidents are glossed over and ignored.

One of the founding members is cut out of the movie entirely as if he didn't even exist.

Total trash.

The Circus

Amazing stunts by Chaplin
At the height of his powers, Chaplin pulls off daring stunts that would put him at great risk of serious injury in this picture - the type of stuff you couldn't just digitally create back then.

Watch Chaplin get gnawed on by a crazy monkee during a trapeze scene.

And the ending is one of the greatest shots in film history.

The Wagons Roll at Night

Only for the most devoted Bogart fans
If you are a diehard Bogie fan than you will have to see this, otherwise you will most likely find this to be a waste of your time.

Even a devoted Bogart fan like me was highly disappointed by this yawner. The way he is treated by the script and director could have only been done in this pre-Casablanca era.

At this point in his career, Bogart has established such a tough persona that this character and direction are beneath him.

Bogart must have been beside himself with the inept direction. The director's best work was behind him in Joe E. Brown comedies.

Putting Eddie Albert alongside Bogart as his co-star is like elevating Elisha Cook to Bogart's sidekick.

The ending is good and may have influenced a certain 1970s blockbuster.

The best part is the lions.


Genius at work
This is not in the top 10 of Hithchcock's best work but you see how the master is developing here in 1936. His use of the camera, his feel for suspense set him apart here. Some of the ways he develops some of the characters is simply brilliant you see the genius that would be fully mastered by the director later on in "Suspicion" and "North by Northwest."

The story and rhythm are not so smooth here as in his later pictures. It is more disjointed.

You have to pay close attention here because it's easy to get lost and confused.

While this is not a great picture, it is a must-see for Hitchcock fans.

Thirty Day Princess

Disappointment, slightly below average screwball with early Cary Grant
One of the few Cary Grant movies to fully disappoint me - especially surprising since its 1934 but the direction failed him.

Preston Sturges is one of the writers, but didn't get to directing yet (this is six years before The Great McGinty and The Lady Eve). But you can see the handprints of Sturges on this Paramount picture.

The problem is there are four writers and they don't seem to be on the same page with each other or the director.

Sylvia Sydney is very good in a comedic role but the material is dated.

Vince Barnett's comic relief is just beyond annoying and almost drops this to a 3-4 rating.

There are two parts of this movie which are noteworthy besides the actors:

1. The use of split screen: this was rarely used by this time and is always fascinating before the digital age.

2. If you pay close attention you will see parallels to Chaplin's The Great Dictator (six years later) in the use of mood, sets and costumes. I am convinced Chaplin saw this and was influenced by parts of it.

Overall, just does not hold up well.

Elmer Gantry

First half is great, second half not as much
The first half of this movie makes you think this could be an all-time classic. Burt Lancaster won a much-deserved Oscar for his performance here. At times, Lancaster is bouncing off the screen.

Jean Simmons is excellent.

At times I feel their is a slight strain between Lancaster and Simmons and sometimes they seem to have good chemistry.

Simmons and the director Richard Brooks fell in love on the set and she divorced her husband to marry Brooks right after filming completed.

When watching some of these scenes and knowing this, you can't help wonder if intentionally or subconsciously the director kept Simmons and Lancaster from getting too close on screen and keeping his flame to himself.

The ending is horrible and I won't ruin it but it is a bad ending and certain aspects of it make no sense and do not follow the trajectory and spirit of Lancaster's character and how we would have reacted given the way he is presented throughout most of the movie.

Another crucial scene involving Lancaster's character deviates from the way he is shown for the first half of the movie.

The blame here lies with the director and his adapted screenplay of the Sinclair novel.

In full disclosure, I haven't read the novel so blame may also be with Lewis but Brooks still has to share responsibility as he is the one who is portraying the Lancaster character.

As far as plot goes, this involves the 1920's period and is focused on religious revivalism. The movie does a good job in its treatment of the subject for the first half of the film but loses its way in the second half and that is a shame.

A good movie that misses the chance to be great.

Hit the Deck

Powell and Reynolds deserved so much better
These awful scripts just started permeating Hollywood in the 50's - far-fetched, non-sensical and not even funny or entertaining.

Hard to believe they could waste the once in a generation type of talents of the great Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds but they did that here.

In the Good Old Summertime

Great color, great Garland and Buster Keaton too
First, the technicolor on this 1949 film is just beyond outstanding. You will see shades of green and purple that will blow your mind away.

Judy Garland is as good as she can be in a character that is perhaps not the most well developed but a good vehicle for her otherworldly talents.

Buster Keaton provides some classic comedy relief.

Sakall is as solid as always.

Van Johnson is OK but his character is terribly absurd and the whole story is just ridiculous average to below average quality for this period. The writers and director alternate between wanting to make this standard 40's Hollywood melodrama and alternate to 1930's screwball but it just never clicks.

The most emotional part is the ending which I won't give away but look for Liza Minelli as a toddler.

The Thin Man

Almost a masterpiece
The thin man starts out great and pretty much stays that way with a slight slip towards the end.

The great story by Dashiell Hammett is half of the movies greatness. The other half is the fast paced direction by van dyke and it's stars William powell and Myrna loy.

They shot this in 18 days and it does feel slightly rushed at times particularly the way the ending is put together.

You get the feeling you are watching a pre code movie until Loy and Powell go into separate beds.

A classic that holds up.

Guys and Dolls

Not bad for a disappointing movie
The songs are good, Brando and Simmons are good, the color and costumes are very good.

Those are the positives.

The negatives are a laughable script that is not capable of being salvaged. Sinatra's character is butchered.

After a nice beginning this movie enters the realm of the impossible unrealistic era that became common for the next two decades of movies.

If you watch and listen closely, you will see some pre-Don Corleone Brando in his delivery and lines.

The runtime at 2 and a half hours is an hour too long. Even the Goldwyn girls couldn't save this.


Gary Busey is no Dimaggio
Dimaggio was born in San Francisco, not Texas. Major oversight.

Violet & Daisy

Horrible absurd screenplay
First sign this is going to bad is the shameless Pulp Fiction ripoff in the beginning which you can see coming a mile away.

The screenplay is beyond repair and belief and alternates between ripping off Kill Bill, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Ocean's Eleven.

I gave it a 3 instead of a 1 because of Ronan and Gondolfini. Worth seeing for early Ronan role.

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